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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 03-25-07, 11:37 PM   #1
Gerdz
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Car free with kids?

I posted a similar thread in Advocacy and Safety, but thought I might get a different take on it in here. I am car-free and my kids - 8 and 11 - have to use bicycles to get to their various activities. We live in a very busy, suburban area (Chandler, AZ) and it sometimes feels unsafe being out there with them. Does anybody else do this kind of riding with kids and what do you do/how do you ride to keep everybody as safe as possible?

Thanks,
Mike.
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Old 03-26-07, 12:08 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Gerdz
I posted a similar thread in Advocacy and Safety, but thought I might get a different take on it in here. I am car-free and my kids - 8 and 11 - have to use bicycles to get to their various activities. We live in a very busy, suburban area (Chandler, AZ) and it sometimes feels unsafe being out there with them. Does anybody else do this kind of riding with kids and what do you do/how do you ride to keep everybody as safe as possible?

Thanks,
Mike.
Hey there Mike,

I gradually became car-free over the past twelve years and have been virtually car-free for about seven years now. My son is thirteen and we both use our bikes to travel almost everywhere. We live in a city with a metropolitan population of 5.5 million and our downotown community is about 2million. Unlike most American cities, Toronto has vibrant downtown residential communities intermixed with high density commercial and corporate environments (major corporate headquarters located right next to major condo developments and established residential neighbourhoods). There is considerable traffic and congestion throughout the city, but we ride anyway.

I gradually elevated his bike education from the sidewalk to the street and by the time he was ten, he was on the street exclusively. We choose our routes carefully. He knows how to 'take the lane' and not be intimidated by close-passers or honkers. He rides predictably, alertly and respectfully and I am cofident in his abilities and skills whether I am with him or not.

So long as you teach your kids how to respect other users of the road as well as their own place within traffic, how to make eye contact with motorists and 'take the lane' in addition to riding in straight, predictable lines, they'll be just fine. They shouldn't encounter any more danger than anyone driving a car or walking across the street. Sometimes they'll need to stop and let someone usurp their right of way if forcing their right of way puts them in unnecessary danger. It's a battle lost, but the war won thing. If they keep a level head and an experienced eye out, they'll enjoy good long, healthy lives.
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Old 03-26-07, 06:55 AM   #3
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What ^he^ said...

I started riding with my youngun' on the street when he was nine. Taught him the rules and how to navigate, etc. Rode with him all the time until very recently. He'll be eleven in June and now enjoys biking himself to school and to see some of his friends. While I would like to take credit for my awesome teaching skills, it's all him. He is an excellent cyclist with very good instincts. Of course, there are limits to where I will let him go on his own. But when I am with him to guide, teach, look out for, etc. we go anywhere and everywhere.

It's kindof up to your kids, ya know? Some of them are ready and some aren't. Good luck and be safe
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Old 03-26-07, 07:09 AM   #4
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I'm car free with a 1yr old at this moment. We don't use the bike just quite yet to transport him. But we've been using a front side baby carrier coupled with public transit to move around.

Like Enigmaniac, I think his move up to the bike will be a learning progression.
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Old 03-26-07, 07:59 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by BenyBen
I'm car free with a 1yr old at this moment. We don't use the bike just quite yet to transport him. But we've been using a front side baby carrier coupled with public transit to move around.

Like Enigmaniac, I think his move up to the bike will be a learning progression.
When my son was very young, I was still using my car fairly often, but my son didn't like the car. It made him ill. It was due to his dislike of the car and my never-failing affection for cycling that I bought one of the earliest bike trailers for kids and began taking him to his grandmothers for day-care and then to junior kindergarten and later to school by bike-trailer. He became more accustomed to seeing the road from a bike's perspective than a car's. By grade two he was riding (on the sidewalk) to school with me on the road beside him. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't bother with his drivers' license in two and a half years.

He's so eager to ride that recently, as the weather began to get better, he immediately began bugging me about letting him ride to school. I don't let him ride when there is a dangerous amount of ice on the road or if it's going to snow or rain heavily---not because he couldn't handle his bike, but because too many motorists don't know how to operate their cars in poor weather conditions.
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Old 03-26-07, 08:33 AM   #6
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I agree with what other parents are saying. One thing that helped in teaching my daughter to ride in traffic or anywhere was to make sure she rode in front of me. I could tell by her body language when she needed some coaching. Later, when she didn't need coaching we seemed to keep up a faster pace with her in front.
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Old 03-26-07, 09:42 AM   #7
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My family is riding in traffic. Not independently just yet. I would ride my eldest daughter on the back of the tandem and pull my other two in the trailer. Recently, I've been looking for a reasonably priced "child stoker" kit to get my 5yr old out of the trailer and on to future training on the tandem.
I can't speak to your fears of being on the open road; this is a terrible consequence of having to share the road with an entire generation of folks from broken homes who lack the concept of personal responsibility. You are at a horrific disadvantage against a 6,000 lbs. urban assault vehicle in an altercation. However, being just plain runover from behind is very rare as I understand the statistics. I use my mirrors religiously, and the bike/trailer has more blinkies than a christmas tree. I would not be above adding xenon strobes regardless of what the law had to say on the subject if I felt the need on some roads. Honestly, riding with kids has no pleasure as I'm constantly scanning the front and behind for danger, but I do it for the kids.

Everyone has their perception of what is safe; Personally, I would not take the children on streets posted greater than 30MPH until their skillset is well established. And I think a tandem is invaluble in building a foundation towards this end.
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